WHEREAS the Alberta Medical Association, funded by Alberta Health and Wellness, has an excellent Physician Locum Services which is currently undersubscribed and,
WHEREAS locum physicians are tied to practicing rural physicians and have a limited time they are to stay in one community,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties work with Alberta Health and Wellness to modify its locum program to accommodate regions that have no physicians and allow these areas access to the locum doctors and allow the length of stay of these locums to be several months.
The Physician Locum Services was initiated in early 1992 through the Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP) to provide a short-term locum service to rural physicians practicing in communities with fewer than five physicians. In January 1996 the program was expanded to provide weekend relief to ensure that weekend call for participating physicians was no greater than 1 in 4. And again in 1999, the program was expanded to include a seniors’ enhancement. The program is intended to make it easier for rural physicians to take leave from practice for weekends and periods of five days to four weeks. The program is administered by the Alberta Medical Association and funded by Alberta Health and Wellness and the RPAP. The Physician Locum Services Steering Committee oversees the planning, operations and evaluation of all aspects of the program.
– Regular Rural Locum Program: Physicians in communities with four or fewer physicians may access the program, and each physician is eligible for four weeks of locum coverage each year with summer months limited to a maximum of two weeks per physician.
– Weekend Locum Program: The weekend initiative provides weekend relief so rural physicians may work emergency department shifts of a frequency no greater than one-in-four weekends.
– Seniors’ Locum Program: The Seniors’ Weekend Locum Program gives senior rural physicians the option to decrease or eliminate weekend hospital call. This option is open to physicians who:
– are older than 54 years of age;
– have practiced in rural Alberta more than nine years; and
– practice in communities with fewer than 16 physicians.
– A specialist locum service is also available for specialists in regional centres outside Edmonton and Calgary.
Locum coverage at this time is attached to existing physicians thus those communities not having a physician are unable to access the service. At the present time communities with critical shortages are assisted with locum coverage based on the availability of locums. Rather than having locum coverage assessed on a case-by-case situation, we would request that the Physician Locum Services Steering Committee consider the expansion of the Locum program to include a 5th category for the provision of locums to “communities in need” for extended time periods.
2-10F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties encourage the Provincial Government, through Alberta Health and Wellness, to consent to pay travel expenses for physicians willing to investigate relocating to “Communities in Need”.
11-08S: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Provincial Government to expedite processes related to immigration and certification through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta when recruiting qualified medical staff.
Health and Wellness:
The communities of Three Hills and Trochu, both located in Kneehill County, are eligible for physician locum services and the Rural, Remote and Northern Program. Physician locum services provide support to rural physicians, allowing them time to rest or continue studies. Both Three Hills and Trochu are receiving locum coverage for 2010/2011. Since May 2010, Three Hills and Trochu have received 132 days of combined office and emergency room (ER) coverage, and Three Hills has received an additional 43 days of weekend ER coverage. Between February 1, 2011 and May 31, 2011, 65 days of office and ER coverage and 19 days of weekend ER coverage have been booked.
Further response was received in July 2011 regarding expanded use of locums noting concerns of patient care continuity and the viability of a medical practice as key issues prohibiting support. The response noted that it would be nonviable and potentially unsafe to allow locum tenens to provide medical services to communities where support services may not have been properly established. Based on this unsatisfactory response, the AAMDC will continue to pursue this issue through formal ministerial meetings.